SXSW Music Festival

Picks & Sleepers


Friday Picks

PATTI SMITH/THE ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO ORCHESTRA: Frankly, I'm a little scared. This is big. Bigger than Tom Waits at the Paramount last SXSW. Patti Smith, the mother of punk rock, playing for free in a town that adores her, absolutely worships her -- plus 6,000 music-hungry tourists who aren't about to miss this sight. This is South Park Meadows big. Dream gig for the Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra, too; everyone agrees he's the only one who should bare his musical soul before the high priestess (sorry, Patti, we all think you're a saint). Gung Ho, worshipers of the flame. Life is sweet. (Outdoor Stage, Waterloo Park, 6-9pm) -- Raoul Hernandez

UNDERGROUND SUPERFEST 2000: None other than Chuck D serves as toastmaster for this 12-act assemblage of aspiring MCs from all over the map. All of 'em are unsigned, but not looking to stay that way for long. DFW claims Free Agents, Shabazz 3, and Squod X; Slanglords and Micronauts represent ATL; Rubberroom brings the Chi-town sauce; Atomosphere and Rhyme Sayers Collective thaw out some verse from chilly Minnesota; New England's Project Kids spin yarns about the hard-knock Roxbury life; and Cali gets it from San Diego's Constructive Rukus, Angelenos Visionaries, and Oakland's Living Legends. Maybe if star UT baller Gabe Muonecke gets a fat NBA deal, he can sign 'em all. (Back Room, 7pm-2am) -- Christopher Gray

GOMEZ: One of those British bands whose sincere lead singer makes them sound like they should headline H.O.R.D.E., Sheffield's Gomez differs from other American sound-alikes, because their songs aren't scorned in their home country. Their 1998 debut garnered them Brit nominations for Best Album, Artist, and New Band, and their new "epic, enigmatic, and experimental" album, Liquid Skin, has been received well, though it lacks the requisite British irony and panache. (La Zona Rosa, 7:30pm) -- Mindy LaBernz

4 ALARM RECORDS SHOWCASE: Although 4 Alarm Records' roster is firmly grounded in American underground rock, you couldn't ask for a more eclectic showcase without bidding adieu to the genre. Chicago's Monkey Paw kicks things off with atonal but spirited vocals riding high atop minimalist punk guitar riffs unfettered by feedback and distortion. Local veterans Bo Bud Greene follow with a unique take on psych-pop that revels in harshness without losing sight of melody. The Blank Theory also hails from the Windy City, but their slow-grinding big rock groove owes more to the Puget Sound tradition. Portland's Pinehurst Kids play energetic pop-punk with a dash of bad relationship angst, while the Norman, Ok.-based Chainsaw Kittens deliver their Seventies-informed fuzz and glam with road-tested authority. Capping off the evening is a rare Austin appearance by the Frogs, a legendary Milwaukee band of scat-happy nerds who hilariously mock everything you and the person standing next to you hold sacred (Beerland, 8pm-1am) -- Greg Beets

MONROE MUSTANG: Perhaps the last great release on Austin's vaunted Trance Syndicate label, Plain Sweeping Themes for the Unprepared wraps you in warm sounds and rocks you to sleep. Last year's The Elephant Sound EP was long on Lips but short on Flame, so one hopes this local quintet can hypnotize Mr. Right into helping them realize their Physical Graffiti dreams. (Park Ave, 8pm) -- Raoul Hernandez

SLAID CLEAVES: Having gained much critical praise and a solid local following on the strength of his Philo debut, No Angel Knows, Austin singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves is poised for bigger pastures with his new album, Broke Down. Cleaves' songs ache with a desperate honesty, mired in the mundane beauty of everyday life. (Broken Spoke, 9pm) -- Christopher Hess

MICHAEL FRACASSO: Michael Fracasso is one of Austin's best songwriters and his performances can vary from intimate acoustic affairs that touch the soul to sweaty, full throttle band workouts. Lately he's been working with Charlie Sexton on a couple of projects, as well as a follow up to the riveting 1998 release, World in a Drop of Water. (Cactus Cafe, 9pm ) -- Jim Caligiuri

GUY FORSYTH: This local grasshopper has been playing Sunday nights at Austin's Home of the Blues for so long, Clifford Antone lists him as a dependent on his tax form. Master of both marshall arts and Texas Troubadorisms, Forsyth also plays a mean National Steel blues, used to good effect on last year's memorable Can You Live Without and his outstanding film score to Buster Keaton's silent masterpiece, The General. Great smile, too. (Antone's, 9pm) -- Raoul Hernandez

BEAVER NELSON: It took the better part of eight years for once-upon-a-time teen hotshot songwriter Beaver Nelson's debut, The Last Hurrah (Freedom Records), to see the light of record store halogens, but that story is more about the soul-torturing industry politics than Nelson's tortured-soul songwriting skills. The latter are too straight up, too sincere, and too evocative not to be heard, making the first hurrah worth the wait. (Copper Tank Main, 9pm) -- Michael Bertin

AZTEX: Call it Los Super Two. A crucial component of last year's Grammy-winning Los Super Seven smash, Aztex accordionista Joel Guzman followed up the all-star project with his own Steve Berlin-produced disc, Short Stories (HighTone). Paired with Sarah Fox on vox, Guzman's Aztex debut guested LS7 alum Joe Ely and Bajo Sexto stud Max Baca and came off like the same south of the border house party. (Continental Club, 9pm) -- Raoul Hernandez

UGLY CASANOVA: This solo project from Isaac Brock, singer/guitarist of Modest Mouse, is aptly named; the chaos that's fuel so many of Brock's songs are sharp contrast for the sentiments that slip through in the lyrics. Yeah, whatever. Know this: Ugly Casanova is that Modest Mouse guy, and this show is one to see. (Emo's Jr., 9pm) -- Christopher Hess

KNIFE IN THE WATER: From somnambulistic country tunes to edgy, quiet pop music, Austin quintet Knife in the Water raised eyebrows with their debut CD ... Plays One Sound and Others. They put on somber yet compelling live shows, the otherworldly mix of leader Aaron Blount's guitar and vocals and steel guitar growing irresistibly appealing. (Park Ave., 9pm) -- Christopher Hess

TISH HINOJOSA: Hinojosa has about a dozen records and about half as many label stints to her credit. She's not exactly folk or even country, but even less pop, and it's neither pure Tex nor Mex. Actually, she is all of those things, just to varying degrees at different times. (Broken Spoke, 10pm) -- Michael Bertin


BLAZE/BRANNEN TEMPLE: Not only is Brannen Temple one of the best drummers in Austin, he's also one of the busiest. That's because he can do anything; funk, rock, jazz, R&B, and rap acts all turn up on this man's resume. BLAZE is his own new thing, and it offers a chance to see him at a definite strength: straight-ahead jazz music featuring stellar Austin horn players Ephraim Owens on trumpet and Mike Malone on sax. (Elephant Room, 10pm) -- Christopher Hess

CHUCK PROPHET & THE MISSION EXPRESS: With the help of producer Jacquire King (fresh off of production duties for Tom Waits' Mule Variations) former Green on Red man Chuck Prophet went experimenting for his latest release The Hurting Business (Hightone Records) and the result is, oh, let's go with urban electrified Americana. And let's also go with, "One of this year's best albums." (Continental Club, 10pm) -- Michael Bertin

HANK WILLIAMS III: This is best whispered out of earshot from twentysomethings who believe Beck to be the second coming of Elvis: Hank Williams III, the spitting (and shaved) image of his grandfather, blew the B-boy off the Austin Music Hall stage recently. Boasting the Jesus Lizard's Duane Denison on guitar, as well as a stand-up bass and fiddle, Hank's crew was even meaner at the Continental that night, treating an awestruck Dale Watson to a heartbreak hiccup and cry not heard in Nashville for almost 50 years. (Stubb's, 10pm). -- Raoul Hernandez

HONKY: Used to be punks and rednecks were diametrically opposed to each other. These days, Honky combines the funky power trioisms of early ZZ Top with punk rock's distorted defiance of convention. Jeff Pinkus' band of locals also pull off some dandy renditions of Rick Derringer's "Rock & Roll, Hootchie-Koo" and Skynyrd's "Simple Man." (Red Eyed Fly, 10 pm) -- Greg Beets

MATTHEW RYAN: Somewhere beneath the tough exterior, Matthew Ryan's inner emotional Matthew Ryan is trying like hell to get out. His debut, May Day, was a gem of an A&M product that fell without making a sound. So what's he doing now? True story: two calls and three transfers (each call) over at Interscope-A&M-whatever and nobody even knew if he was on the label anymore. (Antone's, 10pm) -- Michael Bertin

TOM FREUND: Former Silo Tom Freund's last effort, North American Long Weekend, was stunning in it's simplicity. Full of spaces and shadowy melodies, Weekend showcased Freund's ability to strip arrangements down and liberate them from clutter, while lyrically it reaffirmed the notion that self-discovery is mostly bad news. (Copper Tank Main, 10pm) -- Michael Bertin

WHISKEYTOWN: Whiskeytown (aka the No Depression Paul Westerberg and whomever he hasn't fired this week) were one of the winners in the 1996 SXSW sweepstakes. Say what you will about Ryan Adams' revolving door policies and his Gram Parsons obsession, the guy can write circles around people twice his age and half as temperamental. (Austin Music Hall, 10pm) -- Michael Bertin

GINGER MACKENZIE: This radio-ready Austin singer-songwriter spent most of 1999 flirting with major labels and becoming one of's only genuine success stories; she was voted the site's "Best Pop/Rock Artists of 1999" and her Break-Up Survival EP came out last month. Add dates with Lillith, Willie Nelson, and the Goo Goo Dolls to the 12,000 albums she's sold and there's plenty of reason to think she'll be one of the most whispered names at the Four Seasons. (Pecan St., 10pm) -- Andy Langer

P.W. LONG: P.W. Long with Reelfoot's Push Me Again is a daring and soulful slugfest of emotion liberated from cliché. Like Alex Chilton backed by an egoless Blues Explosion, Long preaches with a fervor and honesty rarely matched on record. Solo with an acoustic guitar, Long swings for the fence and connects. (Austin Scottish Rite, 10pm) -- Michael Bertin

SUPERSUCKERS: God bless the Supersuckers. Surviving Seattle, Farm Aid, and Marlboro sponsorship, these hellbound hermanos are still selling their souls to The Evil Powers of Rock & Roll, and we love them for it. On the couch or in the doublewide, the Sub Pop stalwarts keep pounding out knuckle-dusting cock-punk perfect for anything from Pearl pounding to mattress dancing. (Stubb's, 11pm) -- Christopher Gray

MURDER CITY DEVILS: Lots of black, boatloads of attitude, gobs of Pomade, and hard-driving punk rock powerful enough to rattle your gall bladder -- that's what Seattle's Murder City Devils are all about. Loud hard and fast, churning like the devil's own stew pot, 1998's Sub Pop release Empty Bottles, Broken Hearts has only left the growing legions screaming for more. (Emo's, 11pm) -- Christopher Hess

VALLEJO: Already one of Austin's most popular bands, Vallejo's 2000 target is world domination. A recent deal with Emilio Estefan's Crescent Moon imprint promises a pair of Sony releases, one in English, one in Spanish. The approach seems both ambitious and smart; the Latin rock market is sorely missing a solidly radio-ready outfit, let alone one with this consistently powerful of a live show. (Antone's, 11pm) -- Andy Langer

VUE: With a marketing and design sheen as clear as Calvin and some graphic arts nods to White Light-era VU, this San Fran Sub Pop Iggy-worshipping-Bowie-licking fivesome mines gold from deep dark velvet places just a little too late for the Sterling Morrison tribute, but it'll more than do. (Emo's, Jr., 11pm) -- Kate X Messer

THE HOLLISTERS: A little Johnny Cash, a little Buck Owens, a little early-Seventies Elvis. Houston's Hollisters bring together a good sense of songcraft, sharp playing, and smoky vocals on their brand-new Hightone CD, The Land Of Rhythm and Pleasure. With honky-tonk credentials aplenty, these Bayou City fellas are the real deal. (Continental Club, 11pm) -- Jerry Renshaw

MIKE IRELAND & HOLLER: Kansas City's Mike Ireland released one of the great country records of the Nineties, 1998's Learning How to Live (Sub Pop), an exceptional collection of Countrypolitan soul. Lately, he's made a couple of appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and is preparing to record his next album with producer Michael Deming. (Ritz Lounge, 11pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

Giant Sand
Giant Sand

SUPAGROUP: New Orleans' Supagroup struts through the ever-growing pantheon of Big Dumb Rock with a soulful brand of road-happy energy that's seldom equaled. Perhaps grandiose statements like "Rock and Roll Tried to Ruin My Life" seem oafish on paper, but it makes perfect sense in the hands of this quartet. (Gallery Lombardi, 11pm) -- Greg Beets

JIMMIE DALE GILMORE: It's been exactly One Endless Night since Jimmie Dale Gilmore's last release, but Rounder Records has helped end the drought by distributing the local Lubbock icon's first album in nearly four years. With the Flatlanders doing shows together lately, looks like a fine day ahead. (Broken Spoke, 11pm) -- Raoul Hernandez

THE SILOS: With Heater, the Silos last release, Walter Salas-Humara stepped farther away from his roots of roots music to make one of the more innovative Americana albums to date. By grafting an alluring VU-cum-Parsons core to earlier Silos efforts, the New York based Salas-Humara made an album full of never-ending subtleties awaiting discovery. (Speakeasy, 11pm) -- Michael Bertin

PETER CASE: While justly recognized as a singer-songwriter of great merit, Peter Case is perhaps still best known for his work with Eighties L.A. power pop group, the Plimsouls. Releasing his seventh solo LP, Flying Saucer Blues, this spring on Vanguard Records, his current work reveals an artist that's gotten better with age; his stories are more polished, while his voice grows stronger and clearer. (Cactus Cafe, 11pm) -- Jim Caligiuri

CREEPER LAGOON: The sludge pop of Creeper Lagoon's Nickelbag debut, I Become Small and Go, drew comparisons to indie grad-rock acts such as Pavement and Guided By Voices. That's probably not so much for sonic resemblance as for the fact that underneath the tape loops and computer farts, Creeper Lagoon, now working for The Man (Men) at Dreamworks, has carved out its own little pop niche. (La Zona Rosa, 11pm) -- Michael Bertin

SCHFVILKUS: Oi vey! U see vat happens ven u drink too much Medeski, Martin & Wood? You get shpihlkes! Yiddish of being a spazz, Nashville quartet Schfvilkus let their post-grunge bop do the yapping, and if their forthcoming sophomore LP on Universal is any indication, you'll want them at your next bar mitzvah. (Elephant Room, 11:15pm) -- Raoul Hernandez

NASH KATO: Nash, you'll be a solo artist soon. Now actually. As the frontman of the now-defunct Chicago outfit Urge Overkill, Kato made the pre-indie rock world safe for power chords. His solo debut, Debutante (due in April), is more of the same rock saturation only slicker and colored in with some of Greg Dulli's Black Love sexuality. (Gallery Lombardi, Midnight) -- Michael Bertin

ZEN GUERRILLA: Having apprenticed at Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles, this post-apocalyptic S.F. metal band graduated to Sub Pop last year, unleashing the fury of Trance States in Tongues. More industrial massacre than their previous LP's prog-punk screams, tongues will wag when this fierce quartet locks horns in an epic struggle between metal and mayhem. (Emo's, Midnight) -- Raoul Hernandez

THE ORIGINAL HARMONY RIDGE CREEK DIPPERS: The Joshua Tree project featuring (last time through town at least) Victoria Williams, husband Mark Olson, and fiddler friend Razz, strings together sunshiney, old-timey American roots music with a lyrical bent of which only Ms. Williams is capable. Truly unique and refreshingly honest, the Creek Dippers are as much a state of mind as a musical group. (Austin Scottish Rite, Midnight) -- Christopher Hess

BOTTLE ROCKETS: People tend to view Festus, Mo.'s pride and joy in terms of dirty fingernails and ripped jeans, but the Bottle Rockets are an unusually literate and intelligent band. Their songs and worldview speak to those of us who have to work for a living. Though classed among No Depression bands, their last Doolittle effort Brand New Year found the band striking a balance between angst, humor, and odes to Nancy Sinatra. (Scholz Garten, Midnight) -- Jerry Renshaw

JIMMY LAFAVE: Local singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave is like Austin's surrounding Hill Country: rugged and mostly unexplored. His 2-CD answer to Dylan's Bootleg Series, 1999's Trail, was his best work to date for Bohemia Beat, and with LaFave's worn work boots kicking up miles of dust along endless back roads, chances are he's picked up a few more natural wonders. (Cactus Cafe, Midnight) -- Raoul Hernandez

ELLIOTT SMITH: All the girls want to take care of the quiet misery guy in the funny ski cap and weird wrist thingie, and he probably doesn't need any more affirmation from the press. Still, he's a phenomenal songwriter, and since he has a new Dreamworks release, it's time to say it again. Just not too loudly. Mustn't frighten the poor boy. (La Zona Rosa, Midnight) -- Mindy LaBernz

NASHVILLE PUSSY: Oh, mama. You didn't tell me you liked it rough. But you like to rock your head back and forth so that long, dirty blonde hair spills into those powder-blue eyes, don't you? Oh yeah. And I know you like to sweat. So rip off that flimsy T-shirt and let's get down to bidness. Let Them Eat Pussy. No, let me. (Stubb's, Midnight) -- Christopher Gray

FU MANCHU: Fu Manchu knows that the only thing that should have survived the Seventies were guitar riffs. The SoCal quartet not only defends the honor of arena rock, they preserve it completely -- unaltered and undisturbed. When they step onstage, they take you back to an era when gas was scarce, Nixon was president, and metal was king. (Waterloo Brewing Co., Midnight) -- Michael Bertin

CHUCK E. WEISS: It didn't hurt this L.A.-based songwriter's rep at last year's SXSW that he was instrumental in bring buddy and peer Tom Waits to the music festival. It also didn't hurt that during his 18-year absence from the studio one Rickie Lee Jones wrote a hit song about him. The best thing Weiss has going for him, however, is his music, which in its grittiness and authenticity is akin to Waits, who produced Weiss' "comeback" album for Rykodisc, Extremely Cool. (Copper Tank Main, Midnight) -- Ken Lieck

The Friends of Dean Martinez's Bill Elm
The Friends of Dean Martinez's Bill Elm (Photo By John Carrico)

KRIS MCKAY: Formerly local and always a favorite, Kris McKay packed up and moved to Los Angeles. We don't see her around here as much as we'd like, but that heavenly voice that can be low and smoky one instant and ringing in the rafters the next, is always welcome in Austin. (Pecan St., Midnight) -- Christopher Hess

DAVE ALVIN & THE GUILTY MEN: As the label's best-known artist, Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men are appropriately slotted as the headliner for the Hightone showcase. Dave is not only one of the best songwriters of the past decade, but his band the Guilty Men is one of the most versatile around. Joining them will be venerable songwriters and performers in their own right, Tom Russell and Chris Gaffney. (Continental Club, Midnight) -- Jim Caligiuri

ASS PONYS: "They found her hanging in the neighbors barn, swinging in the breeze," sings Chuck Cleaver on this Cincinnati quartet's first new LP since '96's The Known Universe for the since-departed A&M. While the world has Nick Cave for murder ballads, the Midwest has the Ass Ponys and their forthcoming Some Stupid With a Flare Gun on Checkered Past, is bad seed enough. (Speakeasy, Midnight) -- Raoul Hernandez

RECKLESS KELLY: Transplanting themselves from Oregon to Austin, Reckless Kelly developed a large local fan base on the strength of their beer-drinkers-and-hell-raisers live shows. You'd be nuts not to hear Steve Earle or Trampoline-era Joe Henry in the band, but they can flat-out play so well that the comparisons quickly become superfluous. (Austin Music Hall, Midnight) -- Michael Bertin

BROWN WHÖRNET: This rip-roaring avant-punk octet refuses to sit still long enough to be classified. Whether they're playing movie scores, working out a body movin' groove, or firing off salvos of distorto-delight, the locals in Brown Whörnet are always committed to full-throttle entertainment at any cost. Their self-titled album from last year is their strongest effort to date (Ruta Maya, 1am) -- Greg Beets

CARL CRAIG: Two words: Detroit Techno. Carl Craig made it, you heard it, and nothing was ever the same. "Strings of Life," Rhythm is Rhythm, remixes of Tori Amos, Orb, etc. Bring back memories? If not, here's your chance to find out why Kraftwerk is still popular on university campuses everywhere. (Spiro's, 1am) -- Marc Savlov

FRIENDS OF DEAN MARTINEZ: Not only do the sonorous "Sleep Walk" sounds of Santo & Johnny live on in Austin's Friends of Dean Martinez, they thrive. Having just released their sophomore Knitting Factory effort (and fourth album overall), pedal steel player Bill Elm and his instrumental sidekicks bring the otherworldly sounds of last year's glowing Atardecer back down to the desert on the new A Place in the Sun, a dazzlingly dark suite partially derived from the group's original score to the German expressionist silent, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Friends don't come any better than Dino's. (Copper Tank North, 1am) -- Raoul Hernandez

REVEREND HORTON HEAT: Still thumping the Good Book of psychobilly with bug-eyed zeal, the Reverend Horton Heat shows signs of mellowing, but precious few of slowing down. His latest LP, the Paul Leary-produced Spend a Night in the Box, is more Brian Setzer than Link Wray, but the wicked gleam in the Reverend's eye is the same as it ever was. (Stubb's, 1am) -- Christopher Gray

ROBERT EARL KEEN: A profile in Southern Culture journal Double Take will sear that brand of the thinking man's cowboy even deeper into Robert Earl Keen's skin. A 12-pack of Shiner says he still draws the drinking man's cowboy crowd, though. Therein lies the enigma that is Keen: As a songwriter, he's smarter than his audience, but as an entertainer he's too capable to give them pause to ever notice. (Austin Music Hall, 1am) -- Michael Bertin

GOV'T MULE: This improvisational trio is unquestionably a product of southern rock, but one mixed with a jazz aesthetic. Warren Haynes (guitar, vox) and bassist Allen Woody spent time in the Allman Bros., and Matt Abts (drums) is about as experienced as they come. Not surprisingly, they're on Capricorn, home to the Allmans once upon a time. (Scholz Garten, 1am) -- David Lynch

GIANT SAND: This perennial SXSW act has seen as many band members, traversed as many styles, and spawned as many side projects as the 20-plus years frontman Howe Gelb has been baking his hermitic songcraft in the dry heat of Tucson, AZ. Their long-awaited Chore of Enchantment found its home on Chicago indie Thrill Jockey, and is a loopy adaptation of their inimitable desert music. (Austin Scottish Rite, 1am) -- Kim Mellen

JOE ELY: Flatlander, rock & roller, flamenco-billy superstar -- Joe Ely has been everywhere and done everything. As he demonstrated on the Flatlanders reunion tour, he's also quite a dobro player. There are few acts around as visceral and exciting as Ely when he cranks up that massive catalog of songs and guitarists David Grissom and local flamenco wizard Teye crank out the accompanying soundtrack. (Broken Spoke, 1am) -- Christopher Hess

THE RED ELVISES: From the steppes of Siberia with love (and "wodka") comes this quartet of deranged, interestingly-coiffed, and thoroughly outrageous surfabilly upstarts. As featured in the cult film Six String Samurai, these Russkie hellcats have style to burn and the chops to make most Yankee imperialist rock & rollers seek shelter under the nearest keg. (Caucus Club, 1am) -- Marc Savlov

SALARYMAN: Take Champaign, Illinois' Poster Children, set them all in front of samplers, Casios, and antenna feeds, and you've got Salaryman, a rhythmic tour of ambient soundscapes that proves electronic music can rock. (Atomic Cafe, 1am) -- Christopher Hess

THE STREETWALKIN' CHEETAHS: Anybody who saw this L.A. foursome behind rock stalwart Wayne Kramer last year knows that there's hardly a more solid-sounding rock band around right now. A little metal, a little punk, and a whole lot of attitude and ability are what this band brings to the table on their Alive Records release Punk, Rock and Soul. Even in the jaded 2lst century, there are still some bands that play testament to the power of punk rock. (Red Eyed Fly, 1am) -- Jerry Renshaw

ORANGE MOTHERS: More than one local musician has wondered aloud why the Orange Mothers aren't superstars. Maybe in a parallel universe where melodic whimsy counts for more than telegenic artifice, they are. If our galaxy remains oblivious, well, that's their problem. (Ruta Maya Coffee House, 1am) -- Christopher Gray

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